Nominated Document Spotlight-Murder and Mischief

August 8th, 2013

Are you a new transcriber who wants to see how hard it is to unravel historic handwriting? Are you a seasoned transcriber looking for a bigger challenge? This week we ask for your help with another document that has not yet been transcribed. Written by Robert Rankin to Thomas Lewis, this four-page document includes a report on incidents of murder and theft on the Ohio River by assailants in boats. The letter references whiskey, and murder, and the taking of prisoners. It is a slightly challenging document-the handwriting is good, but the image is not perfect.

Please help us get this document transcribed and into the historical record.

You may read and transcribe the original document here.

Next week we’ll feature another installment in our transcriber spotlight series.

This is one of many–there are many more documents awaiting transcription. Take a moment to register ( and choose a document to begin your adventure. You will be doing important work by adding to the historical record, and you never know what you will read!

Community Transcription-Twenty Seven Months In

August 1st, 2013

In the twenty-seven months since we opened the War Department archives to community transcription, we have been steadily adding transcribers as well as finished documents to our archive. What started with just a dozen or so volunteers has grown into an active, vigorous community of volunteer transcribers.

We offer here yet another snapshot at our transcription activity.

As of this morning, we have 1,426 users-fully 237 them have transcribed within the last 90 days, which is just under 16%. This number has dropped very slightly, but continues to hold relatively steady. Those volunteer transcribers have made 11,226 saves to War Department documents, which is about 54 more than at the last update. That works out to 2,009 finished documents, along with another 31 documents begun. Additionally, transcribers have initiated 462 conversations using the “talk” feature. We also know that on average, each document is edited about three times before it is finished. Moreover, we have had 79,809 total page views.

By now we have an incredibly rich variety of folks transcribing, from professional historians to hobbyists, from genealogists to historical re-enactors, and from musicians to retirees. There are folks transcribing from every American state, and from six different continents. Transcribers also include teachers at every level of education, elementary to university. We have unaffiliated transcribers as well as those attached to institutions, ranging from major research libraries to archives and from the National Park Service to more than a dozen Native American tribes. Among those that specify an interest or focus, those interests range from professional research, to personal enrichment, to classroom activities. Some of our transcribers had extensive experience with historical documents when they began; for others, this is their first encounter with two hundred-year old letters and handwriting. Many of our transcribers have only worked on a few documents, but we have a growing number of people who have transcribed dozens of them. Some of our transcribers have no particular interest in the War Department Papers, but are evaluating Scripto to use in their own projects.

The documents themselves vary widely in content. Many of them deal with pay for soldiers or officers. Others are transcripts of speeches or treaties. Some documents detail disciplinary action; there are supply lists and officers’ commissions, as well as intelligence or action reports.

As we continue forward with the project, users may still register for a transcription account.